A grim, well-researched case that capitalism is wildly dysfunctional but that reform is possible, if not imminent.



A study of the disastrous collision of capitalism and public health.

Capitalism gives off a fusty air, so many leaders prefer the term free market to describe the system that dominates global economies—and whose flaws are no secret to scholars, including Freudenberg, an expert on public health policy. Since the peak of the so-called “welfare state” in the 1960s, writes the author, the U.S. has adopted neoliberalism, whose strategies of deregulation, tax cuts, privatization, and austerity grant capital markets supreme authority. After the introduction, Freudenberg presents six long chapters on the dismal state of what he calls “the pillars of health.” Our global food system has largely eliminated famine, replacing it with an epidemic of overnutrition, obesity, and diet-related diseases, the result of an avalanche of low-quality, superprocessed, calorie-dense quasi-foods. Education leads to better health, but declining government support has led to an explosion of private enterprise. Charter schools suck money from public funds with the promise of a cheaper, better product, but they have not delivered. For-profit colleges verge on scams, and adolescents are becoming addicted to their electronic devices at the expense of human interaction, a situation that causes depression and anxiety. In the sole chapter that focuses exclusively on health care, the author discusses the war on cancer. He shows how pharmaceutical companies, in their obsessive search for a “blockbuster drug,” churn out wildly expensive chemotherapeutics that may or may not prolong life a few months. In his conclusion, Freudenberg works hard to project optimism. Unions remain moribund, but low-paid workers continue to organize to press for better conditions; others have launched cooperative business ventures. Though the federal government is consistently gridlocked, the author describes state and city programs that provide child care, family leave, affordable public transportation, and living wages. Ultimately, these efforts must coalesce into a mass movement with political clout, and Freudenberg remains hopeful.

A grim, well-researched case that capitalism is wildly dysfunctional but that reform is possible, if not imminent.

Pub Date: March 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-007862-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.


The chef, rapper, and TV host serves up a blustery memoir with lashings of self-help.

“I’ve always had a sick confidence,” writes Bronson, ne Ariyan Arslani. The confidence, he adds, comes from numerous sources: being a New Yorker, and more specifically a New Yorker from Queens; being “short and fucking husky” and still game for a standoff on the basketball court; having strength, stamina, and seemingly no fear. All these things serve him well in the rough-and-tumble youth he describes, all stickball and steroids. Yet another confidence-builder: In the big city, you’ve got to sink or swim. “No one is just accepted—you have to fucking show that you’re able to roll,” he writes. In a narrative steeped in language that would make Lenny Bruce blush, Bronson recounts his sentimental education, schooled by immigrant Italian and Albanian family members and the mean streets, building habits good and bad. The virtue of those habits will depend on your take on modern mores. Bronson writes, for example, of “getting my dick pierced” down in the West Village, then grabbing a pizza and smoking weed. “I always smoke weed freely, always have and always will,” he writes. “I’ll just light a blunt anywhere.” Though he’s gone through the classic experiences of the latter-day stoner, flunking out and getting arrested numerous times, Bronson is a hard charger who’s not afraid to face nearly any challenge—especially, given his physique and genes, the necessity of losing weight: “If you’re husky, you’re always dieting in your mind,” he writes. Though vulgar and boastful, Bronson serves up a model that has plenty of good points, including his growing interest in nature, creativity, and the desire to “leave a legacy for everybody.”

The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4478-5

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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